By Miriam Mangwaya
FORMER Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha is embroiled in a land dispute with resettled ward 8 villagers in Chivhu, who are accusing him of seizing State land which was gazetted by government for community development projects.
Bimha, who is also former Zanu PF Chikomba West legislator, has been reportedly at loggerheads with the villagers over the land, which is in Kaalplaats Farm, since 2006 after he barred them from utilising the land, claiming ownership.
Officials from the Lands ministry in Mashonaland East province on Thursday failed to resolve the dispute during a meeting held at Denis’ Kitchen after the villagers demanded audience with the Lands minister.
Tempers erupted at the meeting, with the villagers accusing the lands officers of siding with Bimha to improperly claim ownership of the land, which shares boundary with his Tangenhamo Estates.
But Bimha told the villagers during the meeting that he had acquired the land procedurally from the government and had the required documents which proved that the land in dispute, an extension to his Tangenhamo Estates, was legally his.
“I fully paid for the land to the government and obtained a 99-year lease for Tangenhamo Estates and the land which is in dispute,” Bimha said.
“When the farms were repossessed by the government through land reform, the land I bought could not be subdivided to avoid hindering smooth business operations at the farm. When the villagers first disputed my ownership of this land, I had a senior government post and did not bother arguing with
But the villagers insisted that when they were resettled in Belverspin and Kaalplaats farms, the land in dispute was set aside for construction of schools and other social amenities. They only learnt that Bimha also claimed ownership of the land after he started a plantation project.
“The government should provide a clear explanation on why it allocated the land to Bimha, which was formerly set aside for construction of a school, a clinic and shopping centre, which would benefit more than a thousand villagers,” said Marshal Muzembe, a community member.
Speaking on behalf of the villagers, ward 8 councillor Learnmore Mufamba said there was need for government to resolve the dispute urgently, saying it had deprived children their right to education while villagers were facing challenges in accessing social services.
“This community has an overwhelming number of school dropouts and cases of child marriages because children cannot afford to travel for 20km to the nearest secondary school. Plans to construct a secondary school were halted after it emerged that Bimha was claiming ownership of the land set aside for community development,” Mufamba said.
Mashonaland East provincial lands officer Bernard Tsimba said he would take the matter to his superiors who would know how best to resolve it.
“I was informed that it was a boundary dispute, but it appears this is a different case which I cannot resolve at this meeting. I will get back with feedback from senior authorities,” Tsimba said.